Considered to be one of the most authentic Japanese gardens outside of Japan, it’s no surprise that the Portland Japanese Garden (PJG) would turn to architect Kengo Kuma for an expansion and renovation. The project, Kengo Kuma & Associates’ first commission in the United States, will sensitively insert a new entrance and a cultural village into the existing garden. The cultural village will include an art space, gift shop, offices, a library, and a tea house. The firm is working with Portland-based THA Architecture and landscape architecture group Walker Macy, as well as PJG garden curator Sadafumi Uchiyama, to create a design that reorients visitors and responds to the Pacific Northwest climate.
“A lot of people are surprised that Kuma-san would work on such a modest project,” said architect Balazs Bognar of Kengo Kuma & Associates. “But he is quick to embrace things of a much bigger mission and cultural importance.”
Bognar was struck by the garden curator’s “dynamic understanding of what a Japanese garden could be,” and noted that some traditional landscapes in Japan are frozen artifacts of a historical period. In Portland, a forward-thinking approach allows for contemporary architecture, such as the cultural village.
Renderings show cottage-like buildings, each clad with cedar louvers and topped by a double-tiered roof. The upper roof will be made out of thin ceramic designed to support plants while maintaining a trim profile. The lower roof will be made out of patterned aluminum, with deep, gutterless overhangs that will protect visitors from Portland’s wet climate, creating an atmospheric screen of water on rainy days.